Saturday, May 7, 2011

Just like riding a bike?

Today I headed out for another road ride. I love spending time riding my bike on the country roads. I'm meaning to bring a camera along, but today the forecast was calling for rain, so I didn't think it was the best day to risk it. (I did manage to go out and back with no rain. It still hasn't rained.) For now, you'll just have to take my word for it that it is spectacular scenery with rolling hills and mountains in the distance.

Anyways, the point of this post is to discuss the oft heard saying: "it's just like riding a bike". This phrase is usually used to describe something that people haven't done lately, but expect it to come back easily.

Having been riding my road bike outside for a couple weeks now, I have to say, riding a bike is not quite as simple as it once was.

First, there's clipless pedals. In case you missed my post a couple weeks ago, suffice it to say that clipless pedals aren't really that simple.

Then there's taking your hands off the handlebars. Why would you want to take your hands off the handlebars? Oh, I don't know... maybe to drink some water or wipe your nose on your sleeve (yeah, I'm classy like that). While I've long been able to do this on my hybrid bike, it's much trickier on an ultra responsive road bike. Today I actually managed to drink my water while riding, and let me tell you, it was no simple thing.

Then there's the whole speed thing. I admit to being a giant chicken, but I am still working on staying off the brakes on the downhills. Today I reached my fastest speed yet of 42 km/h (26mi/h). That was coasting down a hill. My bike is currently much faster then I'm able to ride it. I ride in a hilly area too, so there are some serious opportunities to go fast, and I'm going to have to really let go of inhibitions to take advantage of it.

There's the gearing, which I'm finally getting a hang of. Previously, I had to think about my shifting every single time - and I still messed it up sometimes. Nothing like going up a hill and trying to shift to make it easier, just to make it harder. Or going down and shifting and all of the sudden spinning without resistance.

Suffice it to say, that while it is one of my favourite things to do, riding a bike isn't easy. And riding a standard two wheeler at the age of 10 certainly doesn't equip you to take off on a modern road bike.


  1. There are some great rides out to the south and west of Calgary. I've got maps on my blog for road to Nepal, which is an awesome ride! Great pavement, not many cars, and hills out the wazoo. I routinely get +70 kph sometimes over 80, and I think I hit 90 one day when the wind was just right. Check it out!

  2. Good job! It's just a matter of practice and you will get it....says the girl who fell over today while trying to multi task, go up a hill and clip in. :)

  3. To click in, it looks like you are getting astride Bella, and then getting your feet up at very low speed.

    Try this ... while standing beside the bike, put the near side pedal forward and slightly above horizontal. Hold the brakes on and click in one foot. Now all at once, release the brakes while rising up and letting your weight press the pedal down while swinging your other leg over. You will find yourself coasting quickly enough to easily get your other foot clicked in. Uphills are harder but here's a couple hints: make that first push as hard as possible and be quick; another is to ride across or down the slope, traffic permitting. If you lose speed, pedal one-legged for a couple seconds. Or do what I do - keep your feet up at stops!!

    Speed is easy. The trick is to relax and don't death-grip the bars. Bikes never travel in straight lines; they fall left, correct, fall right, correct and so on. The bike does most of this on its own and it's better at it going faster. Slide back on the seat a little to make the front end light. Keep your hands in the drops near the brakes. Trust the bike to take care of you and your confidence will increase.

    Riding one-handed to drink is related; you want to reduce your off-center input and let the bike work. Put your single hand on top close to the stem. And if you need to grab the bar quickly, just drop the bottle - you can pick it up later.

    Gearing - just keep shifting. After a while, you won't have to think about it.

    With 40 years on road bikes, this is automatic but still each new more responsive bike has felt unstable at first. (Peugeot, Trek, Zeus, Trek, Trek, Trek - I think I see a pattern)

    Just follow the training plan offered by Eddy Merkx Ride Lots!!

  4. I have an old mountain bike and am thinking of upgrading to a hybrid. I hope I can do it.

  5. This is exactly how I felt last year when I bought my road bike. I couldn't figure out how to gear really, I was terrified of speed, getting a drink was next to impossible and starting and stopping put me in a total panic...and I didn't even have clipless pedals. I have clipless now, but haven't gotten out on the road yet. I think I am terrified to do so. I'm know all those old fears are going to come back when I'm on the road again and not on my trainer. But I have a Triathlon in 6 weeks. So I can wait no longer....I have to get outdoors this week!

  6. Yup there is definitely a lot more to think about now! A few more rides and you won't have to think about all those things anymore.

    Just wait until you have to start eating on the bike!! That challenging at first!